Emotional Intelligence (EQ) Training

Emotions are a critical dimension of our day to day experience. Emotions can be identified and discriminated, understood and shared, managed and channelled to help us live more mentally-healthy, successful, values-led and fulfilled lives.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is not related to traditional IQ measures but it is critical within a broader conception of  intelligence.  It is a valid psychological construct (there is an ’emotional G’ factor) and it impacts many life outcomes relating to success and life-satisfaction (ref).

Women tend to have higher EQ than men. But EQ, like IQ, has potential to be trained and improved.


Emotional Intelligence: Definition & Examples

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as:

the ability to perceive, understand, and manage one’s emotions

Emotion is an important source of information. Those with higher EQ can read emotions better, and this can help us make better decisions and guide our behavior intelligently – such as reading warmth or trust in someone one is in conversation with, or the mood or judgements of one’s partner or work colleagues. EQ is also needed for understanding and reasoning about emotions – for example, that fear often changes to relief, and that depression may separate us from others.  High EQ people can also self-regulate emotions better – in themselves and  in others. For example, they will better know how to calm down after feeling angry, or be able to reduce the anxiety of a friend or colleague. Those with higher EQ may also use ‘positive thinking’ strategies to prevent negative rumination – compulsively focusing attention on distressing thoughts or emotions.


Scientific Basis

Research shows (review) that EQ contributes to (significantly predicts):

  • Life satisfaction.
  • Relationship quality.
  • The ability to manage moods.
  • Mental health outcomes (ref).

Note that IQ  (as measured by traditional IQ tests) also contributes to the ability to manage moods. IQ also helps us prevent our moods from biasing our judgements (ref).


EQ Exercises

1. Mindfulness / Meta-Awareness

During the next few days try to identify any time that you experience a strong emotion – try to catch it in the act, just as it happens. describe the emotion to yourself – put a label on it – and observe if possible how it affects your thoughts or behaviors.

You need to develop the ability to note every time a stronger emotion is triggered – to become aware of it.

Some questions you might ask:

“What have I been doing in the hour?”
“What have I been feeling?”
“Have my feelings changed in that time?”
“What have I been thinking?”
“Have my feelings affected my thoughts or motivations?”

And try to identify patterns in your emotional responses – habitual emotional responses, some of which might be unwanted.

Practice more open monitoring meditation! You can be set aside for 15-30 minutes a few times a week. And you can even take micro-breaks during the day, to simply observe and attend to the flow of sensations, thoughts, feelings, and processes such as breathing or walking, that you are currently experiencing, while you release yourself from your current pre-occupation.


2. Mindware Strategies

Select the situation. Stay clear of situations that trigger unwanted emotions. Identify some unwanted emotions For example, if you know that you’re most likely to get angry when you’re in a hurry, then don’t leave things for the last minute.


Shift your attention focus. Let’s say that you often feel frustrated and inadequate on account of not completing your daily to-do list.  Try shifting your focus away from the ‘to do’ list to a ‘have-done’ list you may use. Use a standard that you measure up to more constructively, and consistently focus on this. More generally, actively attend to something positive when your attention is pulled as if magnetically to something negative.


Change your response. If you are in the grip of an emotion, you can still choose to change your response for better self-control. Taking a few deep breaths can help break the circuit and  actively inhibit a less intelligent response. And then choose a more intelligent, mature one. When you have a higher value placed on intelligence or wisdom, this process of self-control becomes easier to make a practice of. Your gated DNB training will help with this ability too.


3. Cognitive Capacity (Gated DNB) Training

Continue regular training with EQPro. This training requires inhibiting irrelevant information, and trains your ability to do this at will. You can select the emotional dual n-back game in Custom mode to focus on emotional intelligence training since this game uses emotional stimuli, not just neutral stimuli. But the other training games are also effective.

There is good evidence that the type of working memory and attention control training EQPro implements can reduce the brain’s emotional reactivity – that is, help us self-regulate our emotions better. Emotional reactivity results when emotionally charged information grabs attention and slows down higher order cognitive functioning such as decision-making. Emotional reactivity is known to be heightened in individuals suffering from stress-related emotional dysregulation such as depression or anxiety (review). 



author: Mark Ashton Smith, Ph.D

Dr Ashton Smith obtained his Ph.D. from the joint University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition program. He has held positions in experimental psychology, including a 3 year post at Cambridge University.


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